Several innovative projects on low-carbon heat progressed last week, such as Beacontree Heat Network in Barking, London. The project is one of nine to receive funding from the government’s Heat Networks Investment Programme. The system is designed by Vital Energi, and will connect two public buildings and 170 homes. Vital Energi is also constructing the five substations within the network. This represents the first phase of the scheme, with plans to connect the scheme to other buildings such as a local school in the future.
Also in London, a new report from 10:10 Climate Action and energy consultancy Scene, released on 9 July, has broached the possibility of using abandoned underground waterways and rivers to repurpose for heat networks. A heat pump system would heat the water and provide usage heat around parts of the capital. The organisation cites other areas where subterranean low-carbon heating networks have been successfully used, such as Borders College in Scotland and Stuttgart, Germany.
Solutions such as this one could be essential, as findings from National Grid’s Future Energy Scenarios 2018, published 12 July, stated it was crucial for the UK to take action on heat to meet future climate targets. The future scenarios see up to 60% of heating provided by heat pumps by 2050, and a further third provided by hydrogen heating by the same date. Low carbon district heating and micro combined heat and power are also required to meet goals by that date. It does not expect this transition to occur quickly however, anticipating gas will still be the predominant heating fuel ‘well into the 2030s’.
However, the possibility of hydrogen connected with Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) to decarbonise the gas grid has been met by scepticism by one of the UK’s leading energy experts in the field. Jim Watson of the UK Energy Research Centre, speaking at a conference on 11 July, expressed concerns that CCS has not yet been sufficiently tested to see if it could be rolled out on such a scale. He noted the high cost of demonstration projects so far, and how many had run overbudget.
Utility Week, Association for Decentralised Energy, Energy Live News, 10:10